Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WWII: the war in the airwaves

(Pic source)

We watched "Ice Cold In Alex" yet again, a few days ago. A classic, and a dream for lager marketing men (Dad used to recall the instant headache he'd get stepping out into Egyptian sunlight after a few pints of Stella.)

But the war took many other forms.

70-odd years on, we're familiar with WW2 war room scenes of girls plotting plane movements and communicating with pilots in-flight. What's less well known is that elsewhere in Britain, some were speaking to enemy airmen...

"Starting in 1943, Aspidistra was used to disrupt German nightfighter operations against Allied bombers over Germany. German radar stations broadcast the movements of the bomber streams en route to targets during RAF Bomber Command's Battle of Berlin. As part of their strategies to misdirect the German fighters, German-speaking RAF operators impersonated these German ground control operators, sending fake instructions to the nightfighters. They directed the nightfighters to land or to move to the wrong sectors."

Here is a Youtube recording of a 1973 radio programme about the deception work of Sefton Delmer, who set up a number of radio stations broadcasting "psyops" man-in-the-middle transmissions, ostensibly by Germans, to the German military and public:




Besides Delmer's own revelations in the second volume of his autobiography, called "Black Boomerang," there are accounts by R V Jones and David Garnett.

As the drama-doc above says, Delmer had hoped to fake the Germans into a premature ceasefire in 1945 but was told that it would not be good if the latter could claim afterwards that they had been defeated by a trick. (There is some merit in the objection, since WWI diehards had claimed that Germany was defeated not militarily but because of domestic treachery. No need to set up another propaganda hostage to fortune.)

But ironically, Delmer's apparently unfinished early '70s memoir "Tail of a Tale" begins with his own sense of betrayal - by our US allies as the British Empire was undermined and dismantled:

"I would have laughed at anyone who told me in that hour of triumph that our governments, Socialist and Conservative, would be competing over the next twenty years as to which of them could do most to liquidate the Empire and betray the trust of the colonial peoples that looked to us for sound administration untrammelled by nepotism, tribalism or corruption. Or that on the one and only occasion when a British statesman stood up to defend a lifeline of the Empire, the United States government with a dumbfounding blindness to its own long term interests and disregard for the international rule of law would join the Soviet Union in supporting the aggression of the Egyptian Hitler, Gamal Abdel Nasser. (Not that this deterred the Americans from reproaching us with a lack of loyalty and vigour in supporting them in the areas east of Suez - our line of communication with which they so rashly helped to sever - when they themselves in their turn became embroiled in Vietnam and the Middle East with the same forces they had supported against us in their post-war anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist fervour)."

(Above-quoted extract found here.)

Funny how "right-wing" and "left-wing" don't seem adequate to cover the full spectrum of political opinion. We're not what we were, but nor, as Delmer says, are yesterday's anti-imperialists.

Today, when Saudi Arabia is funding terrorism while ostensibly opposing it, Turkey smuggling oil from IS while sheltering Syrian refugees, and Russia and now China stepping in to help Syria's government against what is under international law an illegal attempt by Western powers to overthrow it, the fog of disinformation is rising again.

I guess that's what Delmer meant by the boomerang.


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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

College education and the 1944 GI Bill

One of the first things I learned from reading Donleavy's "The Ginger Man" was that WW2 veterans were entitled (among other benefits) to a free college education and living expenses.

What a far-sighted investment that was! Wikipedia comments:

Historians and economists judge the G.I. Bill a major political and economic success—especially in contrast to the treatments of World War I veterans—and a major contribution to America's stock of human capital that sped long-term economic growth.

Even now, there are European countries where university education is free.

But it seems that in the USA and UK it's just another way for the financial system to load people up with debt - at an age when they should be starting to buy a house and form a family.

What went wrong?


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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Drinking

I'm reading J P Donleavy's first - notorious - book, "The Ginger Man". I was intrigued years ago by his sparky titles ("The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B" etc) but never got around to opening one until now.

The back cover quotes Dorothy Parker: "... brilliant.. the picaresque novel to stop them all, lusty, violent, wildly funny." That should be a warning bell: DP would look back on her own disorderly days with rue, calling herself a "smartcracker".

The book, set in Dublin in the late 1940s, is not so much funny as horrifying. The protagonist is a raging sociopath called Sebastian Dangerfield, modelled on one Gainor Crist according to Ken O Donoghue (who himself is in part the model for Dangerfield's pal Kenneth O Keefe). Dangerfield chisels evryone for money, women are groomed and exploited with satanic skill and discarded ruthlessly, and forever there is drink.

O Donoghue, who also knew Brendan Behan, reflects:

I, at that time, still liked the pubs. So I would frequent them. But to avoid the poisonous drinking I would slowly consume a sandwich. If asked what I was having I'd always say, "A sandwich, please." Most wouldn't buy me one but now and then the odd one would. I never bought drinks in return for anyone. I would offer to return the compliment by offering the buyer a sandwich in return. But, as you may know in OZ, drinkers, especially those who are Irish or of Irish descent, care nothing for food while they are drinking. They then progress to the stage where they practically never eat, then into the box for good.

Today, like an old Puritan, I think Irish pubs are the most gloomy, uncomfortable, smoky, highly unpleasant places ever invented for the entertainment of man. Murderers of Irishmen I think of them now.


It was living on the continent that taught me drinking and eating go together. The Irish never drink while eating, except milk, or tea and sometimes even water. Drinking is something else; not to be contaminated by food. They go into the pub. Throw it back like crazy; go out with the poisonous alcohol in their blood eating away at their brain tissue, slowing down their reflexes, get into packed cars, career down the roads with the hope of killing themselves which many do. Or outside the pub get into a fight over some alcohol inflamed set of ideas. I've done it all and now wonder why I did.

Gainor Crist is dead, Paddy Kavanaugh, is dead. Brendan Behan is dead. Myles na gCopaleen is dead. John Ryan is dead. There are others. They committed suicide using the Irish pub as an instrument.


To me Donleavy's writing has echoes of James Joyce, but the spirit is reminiscent of Henry Miller: darkness, desperate dissolution.

Here in Britain the radio is advertising deals on canned cider with the sound of the ringpull pop and into the glass gurgle. The TV tells us where you can get litres of vodka for £15. And in Dublin, you can book a literary pub tour to follow in Flann O'Brien's footsteps.

Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Bodies" refers to "the real aristocracy... the two or three great brewing families which rule London" (to tickle his friends Bryan and Diana Guinness); a Guinness descendant was 15th in the 2014 Irish rich list, thanks largely to a stake in the parent company Diageo.

Without drink, what would we do to celebrate? Is British culture that nihilistic?


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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Walls

All men lead their lives behind a wall of misunderstanding they themselves have built, and most: men die in silence and unnoticed behind the walls. Now and then a man, cut off from his fellows by the peculiarities of his nature, becomes absorbed in doing something that is impersonal, useful, and beautiful.

Word of his activities is carried over the walls. His name is shouted and is carried by the wind into the tiny inclosure in which other men live and in which they are for the most part absorbed in doing some petty task for the furtherance of their own comfort. Men and women stop their complaining about the unfairness and inequality of life and wonder about the man whose name they have heard.
Sherwood Anderson – Poor White (1920)

This was one of Anderson’s themes, our inability to scale the walls of misunderstanding we ourselves have built. He saw it as an ineradicable feature of human nature when faced with the flux of interests and social convention in which we find ourselves so firmly enmeshed. Powerful interests know it well and build more walls by fostering even more misunderstanding.

One might have supposed that Anderson’s view would become dated, that the walls would be at least partly demolished by modern communication, but it doesn’t appear to be so. If anything the situation is worse now that it was almost a century ago because we have more powerful forces intent on building walls designed to suit their interests.

As always the most pernicious walls are those between elite classes and everyone else. David Cameron builds such walls, building them with care from obfuscation, misdirection and endless petty dishonesties.

Rats and mazes come to mind, but who is the master builder?

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Energy and liberty

An excellent long-range thinkpiece by Nick at Capitalistsatwork, looking at the energy landscape in the wake of the closure of the UK's last deep coal mine.

I comment:

Bang on. It's very worrying. England's population was only 7.1 million in the early 18th C; for GDP-expanding reasons, we seem to have a policy of suicidal population overshoot. If ever the wonderful world-wide goods trading system hiccups we're sunk into the most terrible chaos - WW2 ended just in time for us, as our soil was getting exhausted ("losing heart" was the phrase used, I understand) - and that was with a population considerably smaller than now, and much more growing land.

And I've been thinking recently that our quasi-democracy and civil rights are luxury by-products of the new energy sources and technological development and empire-building of the Industrial Revolution, else we might easily have gone the way of the French Terror. Funny how we suddenly stopped burning women at the stake in 1789.

We've had Illich's "
energy slaves" for two or three centuries and that's going to change. US/Mexican billlonaire Hugo Salinas Price reckons we'll see the return of domestic service. And maybe the servants will lose the franchise.

Follow-up: Google "Olduvai Theory."


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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Elite scientists

Sackerson sent this interesting link about elite scientists and their tendency to retard the evolution of new ideas until they peg out.

Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who pioneered quantum theory — once said the following about scientific progress:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,     but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Shorter: Science is not immune to interpersonal bullshit. Scientists can be stubborn. They can use their gravitas to steamroll new ideas. Which means those new ideas often only prevail when older scientists die.


The piece goes on to demonstrate the validity of this claim via patterns in published work. It comes as no surprise of course. Scientists are human; they have families to support, mortgages to pay, status to earn and maintain.

To explain what is going on here we could adapt an idea from Wittgenstein – the distinction between symptoms and criteria. Acolytes may present the opinion of Celebrity Scientist as a criterion of valid science. Celebrity Scientist says X, therefore X must be scientifically valid. Celebrity Scientist has become a criterion of sound scientific opinion.

In reality Celebrity Scientist's opinion may not be a criterion of sound science at all. It may have been once upon a time, but perhaps other possibilities are emerging within Celebrity Scientist's field. Celebrity Scientist's opinion may have become a symptom of hierarchy, personal vanity and the inability to accept new thinking.

Confusing symptoms with criteria is very common. For example, is an Ofsted report a criterion of educational excellence or a symptom of educational malaise? Both perhaps. Symptoms and criteria are often mingled.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is another example. Widely known to be a misleading metric, GDP could be seen as a symptom of political mendacity rather than a criterion of economic health.

GDP purports to measure economic activity while largely divorcing itself from the quality, profitability, depth, breadth, improvement, advancement, and rationalization of goods and services provided.

UK general elections seem to have have become a symptom of democratic decline rather than a criterion of healthy democratic government. Which is why useful reform is unlikely.

One could go on and on because elites often confuse symptoms with criteria. Even elite scientists may find it useful once perched atop the greasy pole.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

"EU renegotiations: Pathway for deal found - Cameron"




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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Moggyzilla: planes, trains and automobiles - can you survive them?

 

 

(CLICK TO ENLARGE)
 
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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Quote of the day

"The media is no longer about who, what, why, where, and when; it's all about the rise to prominence and then the fall from grace."

Read Jim's piece - great.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

More on thorium



Lars Jorgensen gives a presentation on how thorium technology company ThorCon sees the future of nuclear power and its inevitable battle with coal. How anyone came up with the name ThorCon I can't imagine but the video explains what their project is all about. While remembering that the presentation is a sales pitch, here are a few bullet points.

The ThorCon system is a modular off the shelf system which can be built by existing shipyards using automated ship-building technology.

The system uses thorium and uranium and is designed to be  “walk-away safe”. If it goes wrong the liquid fuel falls harmlessly into a containment vessel. Nobody needs to shut it down, the laws of physics take care of things.

The system is designed to be cheaper than coal.

Indonesia is already interested, but as ever we'll have to wait and see if ThorCon sinks or swims. There is no way we can usefully guess what new technologies will emerge over the next few decades but thorium seems promising. When will the world run out of thorium? These things are as much guesswork as anything, but 1000 years may be conservative.

Meanwhile here in high tech Britain we build windmills and convert power stations to burn wood. Presumably dried dung is our next big energy idea.

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Monday, December 07, 2015

The EU and low-energy voters

We all seem to have a collection of comfort zones where experiences are aligned not with the real world but with one of our comfort zones. A comfort zone is where we go for our opinions, our world view and our personal philosophy. It is much easier than brain work, just ask a Cabinet Minister.

There are political zones, religious zones, family zones, comedy zones, sport zones, pub zones, employment zones, book zones, environment zones, music zones, art zones, blog zones and so on and so on. There are even imaginary comfort zones reserved for other people such as enemy zones, often populated with imaginary people.

All these zones offer the subtle and strongly addictive comforts of low-energy thinking. In return we give our allegiance to the zone together with its myths, stories, truths, lies, language, social benefits and important ambiguities. In real life nobody actually has to do much brain work – it isn’t compulsory. We all have the low-energy option of comfort zones.

If answers have already been supplied and accepted into a comfort zone then not thinking is more efficient than thinking. This is how we would expect our brains to work, efficiently. Brain work is work, the energy has to come from somewhere. From a survival point of view we would expect our brains to use as little energy as possible consistent with survival. This is how the natural world works, through the path of least energy.

A great deal of human thought may be drivel, but if it is low energy drivel, does not threaten survival and attracts a socially significant consensus then the net survival effect may be strongly positive. Consensus promotes social cohesion which in turn promotes survival.

So we may worship the most ludicrous gods, but if doing so promotes social cohesion then the overall survival effect may be positive. In which case it pays to worship the gods and explain the natural world through their supposed actions. Even the most abject drivel can be socially effective by creating and maintaining social bonds. 

Our leaders have always understood the value of low-energy drivel designed to appeal to low-energy voters. The pro-EU campaign for the UK’s forthcoming referendum will rely on herding low-energy voters into what the EU has become, a low-energy comfort zone. There is no real defence against it either. The low-energy voter was bound to be the Achilles' heel of democracy.

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Sunday, December 06, 2015

It was bound to happen

David Cameron says bombing IS in Syria will make UK 'safer'

David Cameron says launching UK air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will "make us safer".
 
The prime minister denied claims it would make the UK a bigger target for terror attacks, as he made the case for military action, in the Commons.

- BBC News, 26 November 2015

__________________________

Leytonstone Tube station stabbing a 'terrorist incident'

A stabbing at a Tube station in east London is being treated as a "terrorist incident", the Met Police has said.
 
Police were called to reports of people being attacked at Leytonstone around 19:00 GMT on Saturday. The knifeman reportedly shouted "this is for Syria".

- BBC News, 06 December 2015

__________________________

Peter Oborne: "Why I'm cheering for Corbyn... even though I utterly disagree with much of what he says!"

Let’s imagine, by contrast, that Jeremy Corbyn had been directing British foreign policy over the past 15 years. British troops would never have got involved in the Iraq debacle, and never have been dispatched on their doomed mission to Helmand province. British intelligence agents would not be facing allegations that they were complicit in torture.
 
Hundreds of British troops who died in these Blairite adventures (which were endorsed by Cameron) would still be alive.
 
Furthermore, the world would now be a safer place. Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq and David Cameron’s attack on Libya have created huge ungoverned zones of anarchy across the Middle East and North Africa, in which terrorist groups fester and from which migrants flee.
 
That is why Conservative claims that Jeremy Corbyn would jeopardise our national security are so wrong-headed. His foreign policy advice has often been wiser by far than the foreign policy establishment.
 
- Daily Mail, 26 September 2015
 
__________________________

Remember that the Conservatives whipped their MPs on the Syria vote, and Labour permitted a free vote.

Remember that Corbyn is slagged off by the political Establishment (Blairite on both sides of the House) - ably assisted by our news media - for being (a) weak and (b) a bully. I think Cameron fits the bill far better, on both counts. So did Blair; his strength came from having pit bulls around him.

I don't vote for either party, but I know which currently nauseates me more.


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Saturday, December 05, 2015

Should Labour MPs be selected, rather than deselected?

If the Blairites* among Corbyn's grumblers don't like him, they needn't whinge about "bullying" or wait for deselection (which Corbyn opposes) - they can do the honourable thing and resubmit themselves to their constituency Labour Party and the local membership, against anyone else who wishes to be considered for the job. In fact, it'd be nice if all Parties could ditch the parachutees approach.

Even Peter Oborne has respect for Corbyn - see his piece today.

The problem is not Corbyn being out of touch with the suited gonks on his side of the House, it's the fact that Labour MPs are so much out of touch with their electors that the latter preferred Corbyn to the Bugginses who wanted their turn at leading The Machine.

Will Straw has proposed a system of local primaries to choose Parliamentary candidates:

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/content//uploads/2013/07/The-case-for-primaries-to-select-Labour-candidates-Will-Straw.pdf

Time to do it?

___________________________________________

* What do they stand for? What is Blairism? What are Blair's lasting achievements? Why does Cameron regularly consult Blair? Why doesn't the latter simply dry up and blow away, instead of reappearing from time to time like some persistent undead?


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Friday, December 04, 2015

Don't forget your MP at Christmas!



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Hilary Benn: fisk it yourself

Heeeere's Hilary Benn MP, one of the hereditary representatives of the people, addressing a whipped Tory box jury and the Blairite faction behind him who hate having been knocked off their Armani perch by, ugh, the unwashed British Labour Party membership. Worth the unParliamentary applause and cheers? Statesmanlike or claptrap? Here it is, courtesy of Gizmodo, and pick holes in it if you're ha(nsa)rd enough - Peter Hitchens has done so already:

Thank you very much Mr Speaker. Before I respond to the debate, I would like to say this directly to the Prime Minister: although my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition and I will walk into different division lobbies tonight, I am proud to speak from the same Despatch Box as him. My right honourable friend is not a terrorist sympathiser. He is an honest, a principled, a decent and a good man, and I think the Prime Minister must now regret what he said yesterday and his failure to do what he should have done today which is simply to say, ‘I am sorry.’

Now Mr Speaker, we have had an intense and impassioned debate – and rightly so, given the clear and present threat from Daesh, the gravity of the decision that rests upon the shoulders and the conscience of every single one of us, and the lives that we hold in our hands tonight. And whatever decision we reach, I hope we will treat one another with respect.

Now we have heard a number of outstanding speeches, and sadly time will prevent me from acknowledging them all but I would just like to single out the contributions both for and against the motion from my honourable and right honourable friends the members for Derby South [Margaret Beckett], Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle [Alan Johnson], Normanton Pontefract and Castleford [Yvette Cooper], Barnsley Central [Dan Jarvis], Wakefield [Mary Creagh], Wolverhampton South East [Pat McFadden], Brent North [Barry Gardiner], Liverpool West Derby [Stephen Twigg], Wirral West [Margaret Greenwood], Stoke on Trent North [Ruth Smeeth], Birmingham Ladywood [Shabana Mahmood] and the honourable members for Reigate [Crispin Blunt], South West Wiltshire [Andrew Murrison], Tonbridge and Malling [John Stanley], Chichester [Andrew Tyrie] and Wells [James Heappey].

The question which confronts us in a very very complex conflict is at its heart very simple. What should we do with others to confront this threat to our citizens, our nation, other nations and the people who suffer under the yoke, the cruel yoke, of Daesh?

Carnage in Paris brought home to us the clear and present danger we face from them. It could just as easily have been London or Glasgow or Leeds or Birmingham – and it could still be. And I believe we have a moral and a practical duty to extend the action we are already taking in Iraq to Syria. And I am also clear, and I say this to my colleagues, that the conditions set out in the emergency resolution passed at the Labour party conference in September have been met. We now have a clear and unambiguous UN Security Council resolution 2249, paragraph five of which specifically calls on member states to take all necessary measures; to redouble and co-ordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria.

So the United Nations is asking us to do something. It is asking us to do something now. It is asking us to act in Syria as well as in Iraq. And it was a Labour government, if the honourable gentleman will bear with me, it was a Labour government that helped to found the United Nations at the end of the Second World War. And why did we do so? Because we wanted the nations of the world working together to deal with threats to international peace and security – and Daesh is unquestionably that.

So given that the United Nations has passed this resolution, given that such action would be lawful under Article 51 of the UN charter, because every state has the right to defend itself, why would we not uphold the settled will of the United Nations? Particularly when there is such support from within the region, including from Iraq.

We are part of a coalition of over 60 countries standing together shoulder to shoulder to oppose their ideology and their brutality. Now Mr Speaker, all of us understand the importance of bringing an end to the Syrian civil war, and there is now some progress on a peace plan because of the Vienna talks. They are the best hope we have of achieving a ceasefire. Now that would bring an end to Assad’s bombing, leading to a transitional government and elections. And why is that vital? Both because it will help in the defeat of Daesh, and because it would enable millions of Syrians who have been forced to flee to do what every refugee dreams of: they just want to be able to go home.

Now Mr Speaker, no one in this debate doubts the deadly serious threat we face from Daesh and what they do – although sometimes we find it hard to live with the reality. We know that in June four gay men were thrown off the fifth storey of a building in the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor. We know that in August the 82-year-old guardian of the antiquities of Palmyra, Professor Khaled al-Assad, was beheaded and his headless body was hung from a traffic light. And we know that in recent weeks there has been the discovery of mass graves in Sinjar, one said to contain the bodies of older Yazidi women murdered by Daesh because they were judged too old to be sold for sex. We know they have killed 30 British tourists in Tunisia, 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut , Ankara and Suruc, 130 people in Paris – including those young people in the Bataclan, whom Daesh, in trying to justify their bloody slaughter, called them apostates engaged in prostitution and vice. If it had happened here they could have been our children, and we know they are plotting more attacks.

So the question for each of us and for our national security is this: given that we know what they are doing, can we really stand aside and refuse to act fully in our self defence against those who are planning these attacks? Can we really leave to others the responsibility for defending our national security when it is our responsibility? And if we do not act, what message would that send about our solidarity with those countries that have suffered so much, including Iraq and our ally France. Now France wants us to stand with them , and President Hollande, the leader of our sister socialist party, has asked for our assistance and help. And as we are undertaking air strikes in Iraq, where Daesh’s hold has been reduced, and we are already doing everything but engage in air strikes in Syria, should we not play our full part?

Now Mr Speaker, it has been argued in the debate that air strikes achieve nothing. Not so. Look at how Daesh’s forward march has been halted in Iraq. The house will remember that 14 months ago people were saying, ‘They are almost at the gates of Baghdad.’ And that is why we voted to respond to the Iraqi government’s request for help to defeat them. Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobane. Now of course air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh, but they make a difference because they are giving them a hard time and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.

Now I share the concerns that have been expressed this evening about potential civilian casualties. However unlike Daesh, none of us today act with the intent to harm civilians. Rather we act to protect civilians from Daesh, who target innocent people.

Now on the subject of ground troops to defeat Daesh, there has been much debate about the figure of 70,000 and the government must, I think, better explain that. But we know that most of them are currently engaged in fighting President Assad. But I tell you what else we know: it’s whatever the number - 70,000, 40,000, 80,000 - the current size of the opposition forces mean the longer we leave taking action, the longer Daesh will have to decrease that number. And so to suggest, Mr Speaker, that air strikes should not take place until the Syrian civil war has come to an end is, I think, to miss the urgency of the terrorist threat that Daesh poses to us and others and I think misunderstands the nature and objectives of the extension to air strikes that is being proposed.

And of course we should take action - it is not a contradiction between the two - to cut off Daesh’s support in the form of money and fighters and weapons, and of course we should give humanitarian aid and of course we should offer shelter to more refugees, including in this country, and of course we should commit to play our full part in helping to rebuild Syria when the war is over.

Now I accept that there are legitimate arguments, and we’ve heard them in the debate, for not taking this form of action now, and it is also clear that many members have wrestled and who knows, in the time that is left may still be wrestling, with what the right thing to do is. But I say the threat is now and there are rarely if ever perfect circumstances in which to deploy military forces. Now we heard very powerful testimony from the honourable member for Edisbury earlier when she quoted that passage, and I just want to read what Karwan Jamal Tahir, Kurdistan regional government high representative in London, said last week, and I quote: ‘Last June Daesh captured one third of Iraq overnight, and a few months later attacked the Kurdistan region. Swift air strikes by Britain, America and France, and the actions of our own Peshmerga saved us. We now have a border of 650 miles with Daesh. We have pushed them back and recently captured Sinjar. Again Western air strikes were vital. But the old border between Iraq and Syria does not exist. Daesh fighters come and go across this fictional boundary.’ And that is the argument, Mr Speaker, for treating the two countries as one if we are serious about defeating Daesh.

Now Mr Speaker, I hope the House will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House. As a party, we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another. We never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road. And we are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality, but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us here tonight, and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt. They hold our democracy, the means by which we will make our decision tonight, in contempt. And what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the International Brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco. It’s why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini. It is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria. And that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight.

If you wish to see the "bravura" performance complete with audience of armchair-war-mongering gonks, here it is:



Diane Abbott MP on Question Time last night said, good speech but he's wrong and we'll see Corbyn was right in a year's time.

Others in the Westminster bubble are doubtless also saying to each other, "Good performance and useful for our purposes, but a bit opportunistic, played his card too early."

I'm reminded of what an Irish man in the sheltered housing complex said at a Labour Party meeting that was enthusing about Neil Kinnock's electoral prospects: "He'll never be Prime Minister while he has a hole in his *rse."


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Thursday, December 03, 2015

ITV bias on Syria vote coverage?

I watched the ITV lunchtime news almost disbelievingly. I think it was Alastair Stewart who was interviewing Ann Coffey MP, allowing the latter to overegg her claims of "bullying" by people who tweeted/emailed/phoned to call her a terrorist and to say that she had blood on her hands.

This bullying claim seems to be the line to take at the moment - also used for the last day or two to describe Corbynite attempts to influence Labour MPs in the free vote they were given in the Syria bombing debate yesterday.

What I didn't see - and I can't seem to find the broadcast online, perhaps you can - is any attempt by the news anchor to challenge or offer balance.

For example:

Wasn't the Conservative vote whipped? And isn't it the job of whippers-in to "bully" MPs?

Was Cameron a "bully" for slurring the Opposition as "terrorist sympathisers" and refusing to retract when challenged to do so at the despatch box?

Is Ann Coffey MP really, after 23 years in Parliament, such a wimp that she feels bullied and intimidated merely by judgmental words from voters?

Was Lord Goldsmith not bullied into changing his legal advice on the proposed attack on Iraq?

Was Alastair Campbell not a notorious bully when assisting PM Tony Blair in No. 10?

Was Ann Coffey not promoted to Opposition Whip by Blair in 1992, and made his PPS after the 1997 General Election? (Yes, she was.)

If Stewart couldn't bring himself to ask any awkward questions, could someone who voted the other way have been brought on to do the job?

Has ITV become Britain's answer to Fox News?


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Cameron: development of a violent extremist



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Monday, November 30, 2015

Would "QE for the people" help the economy?

George Osborne has reconsidered his proposal to slash tax credits; so far, so good, many will think. But does "austerity" harm the economy, and would its opposite help?

When those who have most get more, it seems they invest it, so that doesn't stimulate consumer demand (though it seems to inflate asset prices).

Conversely, if the poorer sort receive more, presumably they will spend it - but on what?

Almost everything extra they may buy will have been imported, so although there would be a boost to GDP and to some extent domestic middlemen would have a bit more profit, the trade balance would worsen. The total debt then increases and is recycled as loans to UK plc, or purchases of UK assets.

What can be done, in a money-shuffling way? Not much.

Tax? Business entities swell through M&A and have the resources to pay superaccountants to find ways to avoid paying UK tax. Individuals taxed too highly begin to value more personal time over potential extra earnings (unless they have massive City incomes).

Interest rates? Significant raises in interest rates would rapidly cripple the public finances and depress demand in an already stagnant economy.

Flogging the family silver? We are running out of things to sell (Birmingham has lost Rover, HP, Cadbury's and both major breweries, just to offer a touchstone of how things are developing).

Is there a way out of this trap?

Maybe the government could transfer its attention from money to real things - the making and selling of them. A review of trade agreements - fighting our corner - would be good.

Hmm.


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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wrong moves


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the crowds gathered in central London for a march against climate change that they had a message for the politicians gathering in Paris for talks next week - "Do what you are sent there to do."
Source

Decades ago I was playing a league chess match somewhere in Coventry, can’t recall exactly where, can’t even recall who I played for.

Anyhow, there came a point where my opponent took one of my pawns with his knight and at the same time threatened my rook. Chess is very psychological; players sit almost head to head and inevitably body language plays its part. My opponent took my pawn with a tiny flourish, clicked the chess clock and sat back with a look of muted but perfectly obvious satisfaction. Unfortunately for him it wasn’t actually a good move.

I ignored the threat on my rook, pushed a centre pawn onto the sixth rank and the game was effectively over. My opponent’s sense of shock was painfully obvious, even more obvious than his satisfaction had been about a minute earlier.

As in chess, so it is in life. There is no going back once a wrong move has been made. Inevitably there are consequences and although the complexities of real life always offer up new opportunities, they are never exactly the ones we had before the wrong move.

Was Jeremy Corbyn’s election a wrong move? Of course it was – the possibilities stemming from a capable Labour leader are gone. Now it is too late because he has to be ousted in some way and that problem is down to another wrong move – Ed Miliband’s changes to the Labour leadership election rules.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband is facing calls to apologise for the "disastrous" voting system being used to elect his successor.

Mr Miliband changed the system under which he was elected to "one member one vote" and allowed the public to take part for a £3 fee.

Source

There are only so many wrong moves any individual, institution or country can afford to make. The Labour party has made two in quick succession. The sense of shock is still painfully obvious but Labour has lost more than a game of chess and so have we.

It's less than three months since Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader but already newspapers address talk of a "plot" to stage a "coup" within the party.

The i and its sister publication, the Independent, report the calls of four backbenchers for Mr Corbyn to step down, with one saying the party is in a "terrible, terrible mess". Meanwhile, the Times says some senior figures have been consulting lawyers over a way to both unseat him and ensure he cannot be re-elected.

Source

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Teach everybody the Koran

Raedwald proposes regulating the content of the Koran and policing its followers; I differ and offer this approach instead, saying there:

I think the way forward is in influencing interpretation rather than Bowdlerising. The Bible has parts that should also make us squirm, e.g. Exodus 22:

"18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" - King James I had a merry time on that - and among the 613 Mitzvot commandments:

"611.Always to remember what Amalek did (Deut. 25:17) (CCA76).
612.That the evil done to us by Amalek shall not be forgotten (Deut. 25:19) (CCN194).
613.To destroy the seed of Amalek (Deut. 25:19) (CCA77)."

Some say the Amalekites were indeed exterminated and so these injunctions are now redundant; others say the Armenians are Amalek-descended (see http://www.schechter.edu/AskTheRabbi.aspx?ID=530)

Fact is, most people are selective about their religious practices and if society in general is running smoothly they don't concern themselves with the bloody bits. Education and open (liberal in the best sense) discussion are needed - evil festers where the like-minded gather and develop their groupthink and ideological drift. That goes for our homegrown WBRI-classified soi-disant-patriotic Jew-and-Muslim-haters, too.


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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Coming up for air

Sometimes I browse the internet and I’m overwhelmed by the volume of material which is too good to miss but I don’t have the time because there is far too much of it. Yes much of it is dross, but the dross is easily avoided. The good material is radical too and that’s the point. Having it so easily available is like coming up for air after a lifetime spent underwater swimming through the murk and rubbish.

Much of it comes down to language, pointed, witty, accurate, iconoclastic language. Yet the problem with language is that we can’t have our own private version. Wittgenstein pointed this out although it is obvious enough. So we can’t possess language, can’t think in our own personal language, can’t use anything but the tools we have in common, the tools which evolved to channel our thinking to make it easy, automatic and thus efficient.

As we know, this why all totalitarian societies control language. Control language and you control thought. It might be expected that North Korean would be a ferment of covert dissatisfaction but it probably isn’t anywhere near as radical as one would suppose. Control permissible language and to a significant degree you control that covert language we call thought.

Yet things are obviously changing. To my mind, since the arrival of the internet the public domain has become far more varied, interesting, probing and amateur. Not amateur as in inferior to professional, but amateur as in unpaid, unscripted and uncontrolled by big business or big government.

Amateurs with relevant experience, abilities, nous and the ability to express themselves as if they too have come up for air and are enjoying every minute of it. Loose cannon in best, most productive, most interesting, most fascinating sense of the term.

We still see lots of professional radicalism, especially on the BBC, but the establishment radical seems to be on the wane. Amateur internet radicals are smarter, wittier and much more in tune with the causes of our many problems. They have stories to tell, know how to tell them and the establishment wilts in the face of their blunt and pithy honesty.

Look at the way Prince Charles flounders around trying to speak his mind on issues he does not understand. Too old, too hidebound, no exposure to the best of the internet – that’s my impression of him. So he sinks and sinks again, becoming a figure of fun, contempt, an icon of the old ways, a lost soul.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Quote of the day

"I have come to think, especially since my trip to Spain, that civil liberties must be protected at every stage... The trouble with an all powerful secret police in the hands of fanatics, or of anybody, is that once it gets started there's no stopping it until it has corrupted the whole body politic."

John Dos Passos


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Sunday, November 22, 2015

If...



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Thanks

We live like kings and queens.

The house is warming as we wake. The bed is soft and clean, free of lice and fleas. Touch a button and the finest musicians play in our chamber as a pink dawn brightens the cold eastern sky. We read news from around the world, gathered overnight and printed three days' ride away, while drinking tea from India and China (six months by sail). Rising, we wash in heated water, dress in freshly laundered clothes and breakfast on plentiful hot food that needs no spice to mask rottenness.

And all without a single servant to scold.


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Friday, November 20, 2015

As even the Labour Party turns its guns on Corbyn...

An extract from Wikiquote...

Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A horrible hunger

The god of the aristocrats is not tradition, but fashion, which is the opposite of tradition. If you wanted to find an old-world Norwegian head-dress, would you look for it in the Scandinavian Smart Set?

No; the aristocrats never have customs; at the best they have habits, like the animals. Only the mob has customs. The real power of the English aristocrats has lain in exactly the opposite of tradition. The simple key to the power of our upper classes is this: that they have always kept carefully on the side of what is called Progress.

They have always been up to date, and this comes quite easy to an aristocracy. For the aristocracy are the supreme instances of that frame of mind of which we spoke just now. Novelty is to them a luxury verging on a necessity. They, above all, are so bored with the past and with the present, that they gape, with a horrible hunger, for the future.
G K Chesterton – What’s Wrong With the World (1910)

A curiously interesting quote. Chesterton may be stating the obvious but it isn’t something we usually account for. The rich and powerful have it all, so naturally enough they tend to be bored with the present and look to the future for their schemes, plans and entertainment.

In which case progress is substantially driven by the rich and powerful trying to keep boredom at bay. I’m not sure if I agree with the idea, but professional football, the art market and grand infrastructure projects may suggest Chesterton was at least partly right.

Is the EU a symptom of boredom among the rich and powerful?

It could be - we already know about the brats.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A change of soul

You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate.
Seneca - Epistulae morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

As we draw near the Paris climate circus, here are four quotes from the Working Group 1 contribution to IPCC AR5. They illustrate just a few of the uncertainties in climate physics - in case circus folk forget to mention it during the performance.

Uncertainty about the lack of warming
In summary, the observed recent warming hiatus, defined as the reduction in GMST trend during 1998–2012 as compared to the trend during 1951–2012, is attributable in roughly equal measure to a cooling contribution from internal variability and a reduced trend in external forcing (expert judgment, medium confidence). The forcing trend reduction is primarily due to a negative forcing trend from both volcanic eruptions and the downward phase of the solar cycle. However, there is low confidence in quantifying the role of forcing trend in causing the hiatus, because of uncertainty in the magnitude of the volcanic forcing trend and low confidence in the aerosol forcing trend. Almost all CMIP5 historical simulations do not reproduce the observed recent warming hiatus.
TS.4 Understanding the Climate System and Its Recent Changes

Uncertainty about clouds
Cloud formation processes span scales from the sub-micrometre scale of CCN, to cloud-system scales of up to thousands of kilometres. This range of scales is impossible to resolve with numerical simulations on computers, and this is not expected to change in the foreseeable future.
7.2.2 Cloud Process Modelling

Uncertainty about models
Although it is possible to write down the equations of fluid motion that determine the behaviour of the atmosphere and ocean, it is impossible to solve them without using numerical algorithms through computer model simulation, similarly to how aircraft engineering relies on numerical simulations of similar types of equations. Also, many small-scale physical, biological and chemical processes, such as cloud processes, cannot be described by those equations, either because we lack the computational ability to describe the system at a fine enough resolution to directly simulate these processes or because we still have a partial scientific understanding of the mechanisms driving these processes. Those need instead to be approximated by so-called parameterizations within the climate models, through which a mathematical relation between directly simulated and approximated quantities is established, often on the basis of observed behaviour.
FAQ 12.1 | Why Are So Many Models and Scenarios Used to Project Climate Change?

Uncertainty about uncertainty
In proposing that ‘the process of attribution requires the detection of a change in the observed variable or closely associated variables’ (Hegerl et al., 2010), the new guidance recognized that it may be possible, in some instances, to attribute a change in a particular variable to some external factor before that change could actually be detected in the variable itself, provided there is a strong body of knowledge that links  a change in that variable to some other variable in which a change can be detected and attributed. For example, it is impossible in principle to detect a trend in the frequency of 1-in-100-year events in a 100-year record, yet if the probability of occurrence of these events is physically related to large-scale temperature changes, and we detect and attribute a large-scale warming, then the new guidance allows attribution of a change in probability of occurrence before such a change can be detected in observations of these events alone. This was introduced to draw on the strength of attribution statements from, for example, time-averaged temperatures, to attribute changes in closely related variables.
10.2.1 The Context of Detection and Attribution

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Never seen a country more bent on its own destruction"



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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moggyzilla's guide to Modi's visit


(Click to balloon the deficit)


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TPP, TISA, TTIP... - Thought for the day

The key, for the rich and powerful, is to systematise what they do, while encouraging their victims to personalise their response.





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Monday, November 09, 2015

Moggyzilla on losing personal privacy to "BOO!"


(Click to inflate the issue)

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Sunday, November 08, 2015

Moggyzilla on the UK's energy suicide


[click to see monster version]


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The triumph of trivia

A story I posted five years ago, about a kitten that followed a climbing party up the Matterhorn, has become a wakened "sleeper", topping the weekly and monthly views and now climbing - clawing - determinedly up the top ten all-time hits.

We are doomed.

I may change my byline from Sackerson to Lolcat.



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Saturday, November 07, 2015

We shall fight on the beaches...


Fraisthorpe Beach is a long sandy beach near Bridlington. Not particularly accessible but probably popular enough in summer. Not so popular on a foggy day in November but an excellent and almost deserted walking beach with miles of firm sand. The beach is littered with old tank traps, pillboxes and the remains of other concrete structures hurriedly erected during WWII. The picture above shows a line of concrete blocks disappearing into the mist.


Coastal erosion has undermined this pillbox and left it on the beach. Originally it probably stood on the low cliffs behind so erosion must be quite rapid here. The interior is littered with plastic bottles, a tribute to one of our greatest modern industries - sugared water.



These things are not an uncommon sight but Fraisthorpe Beach is very flat and vulnerable so it seems to have been quite heavily defended and consequently there is still much to see. 

Whether or not these preparations would have made much difference I don't know, but my non-military eye says not. Perhaps they were intended to promote preparedness and the reality of the threat rather than repel a determined heavy assault.

As far as I could see there was no information to tell younger people what the structures are, why they were built, what they represent . Defending a way of life is not longer politically correct, so maybe the official mind wanders off in other directions these days. 

  

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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Wildlife news: huntress bags crusty giant


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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.